THE CONVERT | London, Above The Stag Theatre

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Ben Kavanagh’s chilling new play explores the resources we need to endure catastrophe through an alternate reality where our greatest fears are endemic and enduring.

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You said The Convert is the “maddest” thing you’ve ever written. Is it really?

I think so. I mean, it feels very much like a play that exists in an alternate world, both in terms of its actual content, and also its form and structure. There’s only three characters, but there’s constant references to a wider society which gives it this epic feel. It’s also got some pretty dramatic set pieces, but I won’t ruin it with spoilers!

How did the project come about?

The play is part of a larger season at the Above The Stag Theatre — the UK’s only full time LBGTQ+ theatre — called CONTACT, which is essentially a festival of new and challenging work. Each company has been given free rehearsal space and a five-night run to realise their ideas and bring them to the stage. I’m thrilled to be back working with director Gene David Kirk, whose previous work at the Stag has been particularly successful, and with us for the journey are two extremely talented actors in James Phoon and Olly Roy — it’s an exciting prospect going back into the rehearsal room with such a strong team.

Why gay conversion therapy?

In fact, The Convert started life as a monologue in BODY POLITIC. Gene approached me about the season at the Stag in March of 2021, and asked if I had any ideas: I suggested this monologue could have the dramatic potential for expanding into a full-length play. As we chatted, the world of the monologue seemed to blend perfectly with a conversation that was being had in the wider media at the time, the legislating against gay conversion therapy – i.e. the ridiculous time it was taking to ban it!

What can audiences expect on the night?

I know the main thrust of the play is set against the backdrop of conversion therapy, but I think, like all good theatre, at its root, it’s a play about love, and in particular, enduring love. So I’d certainly expect that. As for the rest – well, we’ve not started rehearsals yet, and the entire play could be rewritten after the first day of rehearsals, as is so often the case. So much of the writing process relies on hearing the actors speak the lines, and gaining the insight of the director in how the story is coming together – as a writer, sometimes you are too close to the play to have that kind of perspective. Collaboration breeds a kind of openness in the room that nearly always results in a clearer direction for the story. It’s thrilling! They say good plays aren’t written, they are rewritten; well, if that’s the case then sign me up!

Playing 23 – 27 June 2021 at the Above The Stag Theatre in Vauxhall.

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HONG KONG LESBIAN AND GAY FILM FESTIVAL: OPENING PARTY | Hong Kong, Woobar @ W Hotel

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To celebrate the 30th anniversary year of the longest-running LGBTQ+ film festival in Asia, the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (HKLGFF) kicked off with two packed-house screenings and a dynamite party in Kowloon. All ticket holders to the opening screenings of Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (How I Felt When I Saw That Girl) (2019) or Les Crevettes Pailletées (The Shiny Shrimps) (2019) were invited to the party, with free drinks sponsored by Finlandia and Jack Daniel’s.

Before the screenings, executive director Raymond Leung presented this year’s Prism Award to Angus Leung, on behalf of him and his husband Scott Adams, for spending the past five years battling local government to recognise their marriage in Hong Kong.

At Woobar, DJs Janette Slack and Melody Lane delivered a stream of feel-good club classics with the occasional remix. Short, live performances injected some fresh energy, too. KiKi house of Marciano brought their mixed-gender, PVC-clad voguing trio, which went down an absolute storm. Drag Jam did some fun lip-syncing and also posed for some photo opportunities with fans.

Although primarily geared up for a young, nightclub-going crowd, there was a glorious mix of ages, nationalities and styles, embracing Hong Kong’s diversity. A huge amount has changed over the past thirty years: 1991 saw the legalisation of homosexuality, and Hong Kong’s annual Pride parade started in 2008. But there is still no legal recognition of any same-sex relationships, and limited protection against discrimination. The fight for visibility continues.

Book online for all upcoming events, including the closing party on 21 September 2019.

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CIRCA | London, Old Red Lion Theatre

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After premiering with a cast of twelve at the Theatre de Meervaart, Amsterdam in 2016, followed by an acclaimed run with a cast of seven at The Vaults in London, Tom Ratcliffe’s company work.Theatre returns in a co-production with Harlow Playhouse.

“I can’t wait to be bringing Circa back this year for a longer run in London, and then to Harlow,” says Ratcliffe of his debut play. “The play has become even more topical over the past two years, and loneliness amongst the gay community is something that needs to be spoken about. The play has developed over the past two years and it’s something I cannot wait to share with everyone.”

In the 21st century, being gay is supposedly more integrated than ever: marriage is legal, parenthood is possible, and #LoveWins is trending on Twitter. But in a world where sex is readily available, what does it mean to be in a gay relationship in the modern age? And why are so many gay men still lonely?

Circa explores the blurred identity of the gay relationship in the modern age. Following the story of one man’s romantic life, we are taken through the different relationships and encounters he experiences over a period of thirty years, joining him through the joys and pitfalls of love.

Book online at www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk. Tickets from £12.

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